Update: President Obama Granted a Record-Setting 330 Commutations Just Before Leaving Office

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02:  U.S. President Barack Obama smiles during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the East Room at the White House August 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. Later this evening President Obama will host a State Dinner for Prime Minister Loong and his wife Ho Ching.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Update: President Obama Granted a Record-Setting 330 Commutations Just Before Leaving Office

This goes down in history as the most pardoned individuals in a day.

Published October 6, 2016

Update January 19:

Today, President Obama commuted prison sentences for 330 individuals, the most granted by a president in a single day. The White House announced that Obama has now granted commutation to a total of 1,715 individuals, including 568 people who had been sentenced to life in prison. 

The president has stressed that he believes the majority of these men and women were serving unduly long sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

President Obama has granted more commutations than any president in this nation’s history. He has also surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined, according to the White House press release. 

Update December 20:

On Monday, President Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals, which tops the record for the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any president in U.S. history, reported the White House Blog. In the year 2016, President Obama has granted clemency to more than 1,000 deserving individuals. 

With the granting of clemency to these individuals, President Obama is demonstrating how this country should be built on the concept of rehabilitation and second chances.

On the blog, Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel to the president, wrote:

“The 231 individuals granted clemency today have all C demonstrated that they are ready to make use — or have already made use — of a second chance. While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them. For the pardon recipient, it is the story of an individual who has led a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way. For the commutation recipient, it is the story of an individual who has made the most of his or her time in prison, by participating in educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment. These are the stories that demonstrate the successes that can be achieved — by both individuals and society — in a nation of second chances.”


Today (October 6), President Barack Obama shortened the sentences of 102 people who were incarcerated in federal prisons. Per the White House, most of them were serving long-term sentences for drug-related crimes, which politicians on both sides of the aisle now agree are unduly harsh—particularly for Blacks and Latinos. About half of all people in federal prisons are there for drug charges.

Today’s action brings President Obama to a total of 774 commutations over the course of his two terms—that’s more than the past 11 presidents combined.


The president is expected to continue with the commutations through the end of his term, but the Administration is still pushing for overall reform of the criminal justice system. “Commutations can be a powerful tool to rectify specific cases, but the individualized nature of this relief highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post announcing today’s action. “Only the passage of legislation can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.”

Written by Rachel Herron


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